Imagine The Ray Bradbury Theater mixed with Tales From the Crypt and what you’ll get — at least in spirit — is Tales of Halloween. Yet while Axelle Carolyn is the creator of this collection of vignettes, she is only one of eleven popular horror directors — such as Lucky McKee and Darren Lynn Bousman, among others — to have included a short film in the overall structure of the piece.
It’s difficult to actually review a collection of supposedly interlocking films, so perhaps the best way is to look at the overall structure of Tales of Halloween. While Corin Hardy mentions Ray Harryhausen as one of his influences in creating the monsters in The Hallow, you can really see the shadows of Harryhausen’s animation in the miniature land panoramic view introduction to Tales and in Mike Mendez’s “Friday the 31st” and Neil Marshall’s “Bad Seed” vignettes with the cute alien and mutant pumpkin respectively.
But aside from some attempts to unite all the narratives, mainly in “Bad Seed,” most of the stories seem pretty well independent. In that, perhaps the collection as an overall and cohesive story structure fails. However, each vignette can be seen to stand as confections and diabolical plots in their own right. Certainly Dave Parker’s “Sweet Tooth” and Axelle Carolyn’s “Grim Grinning Ghost” create some nice standalone urban myths, along with demonic children facing and doling out justice in both Adam Giegrasch’s “Trick” and Paul Solet’s “The Weak and the Wicked” stand out as particularly strong and memorable stories.
Tone can usually be a casualty of creative collaboration. Whereas The Hallow seemed to be deciding what genre and tropes it was made of out, Tales of Halloween — depending on what tale you were viewing — veers wildly between the mundane, the silly, and the outright murderous and horrifying. Even the fact that each tale is supposed to take place in the same American town doesn’t always show through until “Bad Seed.”
Even so, there is something nostalgic in these vignettes that hearken back to candies, and games, and movies. Certainly, Adrienne Barbeau’s dark and delightfully full and villainous voice as a DJ on the radio narrating each vignette also adds to this spirit. Mainly, Tales of Halloween is a lot like the ghastly Sweet Tooth’s grab bag: sometimes you find delicious morsels, and other times you just find guts … until you realize that both are valid snack choices.